Corona: all power to the scientists?

Scientists have rarely received as much media attention as they are now in the coronavirus crisis. Leading virologists and epidemiologists as well as the heads of government agencies have become the face of the crisis in their respective countries. Europe's press warn against false expectations and blind trust.

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Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Paternalism is the wrong strategy

No one knows which is the best way out of the crisis, comments journalist Claudia Wirz in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“There are plenty of experts telling us what to do and what not to do, yet the idea of a wise elite that can navigate us safely through the crisis is an illusion. ... Of course it's important to listen to the advice of the various experts. But this is precisely what speaks against paternalism. Because no one knows the absolute truth, only a competition between opinions and experiences can bring the necessary insights. This is why personal responsibility must be the order of the day.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

A distorted image of science

Science is being pushed into a role that contradicts its nature, warns Canadian sociologist Mathieu Bock-Côté in Le Figaro:

“People turn to it for answers as if it were an oracle, and even dream of bringing it to power. Those in power are increasingly inclined to justify their decisions by surrounding themselves with recognised experts, as if they were implementing clear and simple scientific recommendations. ... However, people forget that science does not come to us as revealed and definitive knowledge, but as a series of hypotheses that are always debatable, unfinished and subject to constant reassessment. Progressives clearly dream of a definitive knowledge that can abolish the complexity of our existence and even take away our fear of death. They are thus trying to assign to science the role that was once assigned to religion.”

Azonnali (HU) /

Expert advice can be fatal

Science is never objective, Azonnali stresses:

“The current situation should make us reflect on the so-called expert opinions on so-called climate change. The current situation has shown us on a small scale where limiting consumption and production on the orders of virologists can lead. The upper middle class of the first world can bear the consequences. ... But the absolutism of the experts will cost the entire third world and the lower social classes of the first world their lives. The current pandemic demonstrates that in other matters too, we should not uncritically believe everything the ideologically motivated and politically manipulated virologists and biologists say.”

Aargauer Zeitung (CH) /

Don't let virologists have the last word

For the Aargauer Zeitung, scientists aren't the only ones who can show the way out of the crisis:

“Politicians listen to scientific opinion, and that's a good thing. However there's more to science than virology and epidemiology. What for example economists, psychiatrists and constitutional lawyers have to say is also particularly important right now. They seem to be getting less attention, and that's wrong. As we start to put the lockdown behind us politicians should make their decisions holistically - and keep in mind, for example, that corporate bankruptcies and mass unemployment can lead to depression and even suicides. ... One thing is clear: scientists provide the facts, politicians make the decisions. And the politicians will also have to bear responsibility for the decisions they take.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Too many cooks spoil the broth

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's approach of following the advice of just a few scientists is correct, writes columnist Bert Wagendorp in De Volkskrant:

“Rutte is dependent on experts, virologists, infectiologists and microbiologists. ... Since the coronavirus is also a mystery to many of these experts, the government is taking advice from the one-eyed in the land of the blind. ... The virus follows a complicated but clear script. It seems prudent to fight it with a clear strategy and keep the command centre small. If Mark Rutte were to add a few psychologists, economists or ethicists who point to devilish dilemmas, it would spell the end for him. And that's the last thing we need now.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

The craving for substitute gods

A large part of the Swedish population stands behind Anders Tegnell, chief epidemiologist at the Swedish Public Health Agency, and his concept of minimal restrictions. But the fact that a Tegnell fan club has been set up and even traditional media are fervently singing his praise goes too far for journalist Lisa Magnusson, commenting in Dagens Nhyeter:

“Sweden has put God behind it and is now considered the most secular country in the world. Perhaps this has contributed to the fact that the phenomenon of the personality cult has become so extremely strong here in the recent past. For a long time the psychologist was our substitute god, only to be replaced in the 2010s by the ideologist. Perhaps the 2020s will be the era of the scientific expert? In any case, 2020 is the year of Anders Tegnell. Even if I suspect that this reserved academic is not particularly happy about that.” (ES) /

Too likeable to be true

Fernando Simón, director of the Spanish Health Ministry's Coordination Center for Health Alerts, has become a popular figure thanks to his calm and modest attitude. But the opposition has voiced doubts about his professional competence and recently there has been a smear campaign in the social networks. provides ironic instructions on how to succeed in hating him:

“Don't follow Fernando Simón's appearances in the media. If you don't disconnect you'll never succeed in hating him. ... Because if you listen to him on a daily basis you'll fall under his spell and he'll come across as a nice guy, even likeable. ... Instead, take a quick look at excerpts of videos on social networks that have been taken out of context, such as 'Fernando Simón laughing at the dead' or 'Fernando Simón assuring us that this would only be a minor flu'.”

Le Soir (BE) /

Let civil society and the young have a say

Civil society in general and young people in particular must have a say in developing a concept for overcoming the corona crisis, members of the Forum des Jeunes, which represents Belgium's French-speaking youths at UN events, demand in Le Soir:

“The decisions of the coming weeks are of a political nature and can only be taken after all the affected parties have been consulted. ... Whether or not it is based on expert information, collective decisions must form part of the process of formulating any post-covid strategy. All the more so because the direction we now take will prove decisive in the long term. Precisely because a crisis situation allows certain ideas to take root, young people deserve to be listened to.”